The Hall of Final Ruin: What a Kick-off for Ophelia’s Jump

Thank goodness, I took a course in Southwestern Mystery and Myth in graduate school, or I would have no idea what was going on in Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos’ The Hall of Final Ruin, a new play of the Southwest.  But watching the colorful La Tules (Candida Celaya), an historical character also known as Doña Maria Gertrudis Barceló, planning her “good death” one minute and shooting her six-guns out the window the next, provides a clue as to what may be in store.

Of course, it helps that we meet our guide, Doña Sebastiana (the superb Janette Valenzo) almost immediately. She explains that she’s not, you know, Death.  But she’s close. It’s good to know when we’re told we’re “all gonna Diiiiieeee,” as she explains, but, well, maybe not tonight.  Wheeling her iconic cart, we will meet Doña Sebastiana throughout the play, time-traveling and shape-shifting as she flows through the history of Hispanic subjugation and assimilation during the history the Southwest.

Are you getting the picture?  That’s right!  Nothing is exactly as it seems.  But, cuidado, at least we know that one person will die before the night is out. Toss in a few visions and visitations, Sister Jane (Toni Lynd), a teetotalling “pro-test-tant’ until she isn’t, and a fortune in Mexican “Reales,” and we’re in for quite the ride to La Tules’ and also New Mexico’s transition.

As La Tules winds down her affairs, we meet her adopted daughters, the practical Carmelita (Brissa Ramirez) and the hallucinatory Rallitos (Cynthia Sophia Alvarez) who, against all odds, has been pregnant now for a year. Every time La Tules complains of the encroaching Americanos, her righthand gal, Pilar (Jennifer Bobiwash), a native American, keeps reminding her (and us) that this is the second wave of usurpers, not the first.

Co-Artistic Director and set designer, Beatrice Casagrán provides a practical southwestern-tinged setting for the play, crowding a settee, a desk, an antique clock, birdcage, and even an altar into the large room. Costumer Ariel Thomke’s 19thcentury Southwestern garb helps set the time period and the tone, while the practical lighting (by Sheila Malone) illuminates the space, yet hasn’t the flexibility to allow for some of the more fanciful apparitions to be singled out.  The result is a jumble of actions, whether they are “real” or imagined.

Still, this smart and satirical rendering of La Tules’ last hours carries the flavor of those wide-open days when Santa Fe was the hub of commerce between North and South and La Tules’ Monte parlor relieved many a man of his hard-earned cash.  It’s an important glimpse into another culture and another time that cumulatively, gives us our own world.

The Hall of Final Ruin continues through April 10, performing Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 4 pm at 2009 Porterfield Way, Suite I, Upland, CA 91786. Additional performances are scheduled for Thursday, March 31st at 8 pm and Saturday April 2nd at 2 pm.

All Covid 19 protocols are enforced. Proof of vaccination and/or negative covid test, and masks are required. For tickets ($22 – 30.00), call (909) 734-6565, or online at